Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood vows new marches after Cairo mosque standoff

Defiant call to streets follows tense stand-off in Cairo mosque.

By REUTERS, JPOST.COM STAFF
August 18, 2013 10:39
3 minute read.
Anti-Morsi protesters gather near Al-Fath mosque in Cairo

Anti-Morsi protesters gather near Al-Fath mosque in Cairo 37. (photo credit: Reuters)

 
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The Muslim Brotherhood defiantly vowed to hold several marches in Cairo on Sunday afternoon, the AFP news agency reported.

The call to protest follows a tense stand-off with protesters in a Cairo mosque on Saturday, as the death toll from four days of violence surpassed 700.

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A statement by the Anti-Coup Alliance said several marches would take place in Cairo on Sunday afternoon, continuing the daily campaign of protests in defiance of an intensifying crackdown.

Meanwhile, Egypt's cabinet is set to discuss the escalating crisis.

Violence flared on Saturday as backers of Morsi exchanged fire with security forces in a central Cairo mosque, where scores of Muslim Brotherhood protesters had sought refuge from clashes the day before that killed 95 in the capital.

Police finally cleared the building and made a string of arrests, with crowds on the street cheering them on and harassing foreign reporters trying to cover the scene.

"We as Egyptians feel deep bitterness towards coverage of the events in Egypt," presidential political adviser Mostafa Hegazy said, accusing Western media of ignoring attacks on police and the destruction of churches blamed on Islamists.



More than 700 people have died, most of them backers of Morsi, in four days of violence. That has earned Egypt stiff condemnation from Western nations, uncomfortable with Islamist rule but also with the overthrow of an elected government.

The crackdown has, however, drawn messages of support from key Arab allies like Saudi Arabia, which have long feared the spread of Brotherhood ideology to the Gulf monarchies.

Blaming a defiant Brotherhood for the bloodshed, Egyptian Prime Minister Hazem el-Beblawi proposed dissolving the group in a move that would force it underground and could usher in mass arrests of its members countrywide.

The government said it was studying the possibility.

"There will be no reconciliation with those whose hands have been stained with blood and who turned weapons against the state and its institutions," Beblawi told reporters.

Fading popularity

Founded in 1928, the Brotherhood has deep roots in the provinces and won all five elections that followed the overthrow in 2011 of the autocratic Hosni Mubarak, appearing to cement themselves in the heart of Egyptian power for years to come.

But accusations that they were incompetent rulers intent only on monopolizing government tarnished their reputation.

Hundreds of thousands of Egyptians took to the streets in June to denounce Morsi and the army says it removed him from office on July 3 to avoid a civil war.

Since then, the state media has turned ferociously against the group and there appeared to be little sympathy for the Brotherhood faithful amongst many ordinary Egyptians.

"Democracy did not work for Egypt I am afraid," said Hussein Ahmed, a 30-year-old Egyptian banker in Cairo, who had protested against Mubarak in the 2011 uprising.

"Yes the Brotherhood were elected, but they never cared about rights or freedoms of anyone but their own group. Why should we feel sorry for them now?"

Brotherhood leaders accuse the military of deliberately sabotaging their time in office and plotting their demise.

The government has ordered a dawn-to-dusk curfew that looks set to last until the middle of September, leaving the normally crowded streets of major cities eerily deserted at sundown.

Looking to regain some semblance of normality, banks were due to re-open on Sunday for the first time since Wednesday's carnage, and the stock exchange will also resume business, with trading cut to three hours from four because of the instability.

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